? Early St. Louis Hospitals, Homes, and Asylums

Early St. Louis Hospitals, Homes, and Asylums

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David A. Lossos - updated 9/24/2011

The following history is quoted from the ECH website at http://everychildshope.org/page.aspx?pid=265

"In 1858, Reverend Louis Nollau began what was to become an enduring mission. He opened the basement of his church, St. Peter's Evangelical Church as shelter to a young boy named Henry Sam, and so the German Protestant Orphans Home began. Many other children followed, due to the recurrent outbreaks of cholera, a fatal disease at the time. This all important orphanage later became ECH and has stood the test of time for over 150 years.
Incorporated in 1861, the then German Protestant Orphan's Home operated in the parsonage at St. Peter's Evangelical Church for the next two years. As more children arrived, these quarters became too small, so the orphanage moved to a larger home on Carr Street in downtown St. Louis.
Following a fire in 1863, Rev. Nollau and the Board of Directors felt that the children needed a place in the country where they could breathe the clean air and learn a trade. They purchased a 65-acre farm on the St. Charles Rock Road for $23,500. The farm was on one of the highest points of St. Louis County and provided a substantial mansion, outbuildings, faming fields, as well as over 1,000 fruit bearing trees.
In the fall of 1866, 60 boys and girls moved to the "country." It was a half-day's ride from the city by farm wagon.
By 1874, the number of children reached 250 and the Board of Directors had to make the decision to turn some children away. The "family" had outgrown its current home. So, to accommodate everyone, that fall, the original mansion was rebuilt to house all the children, staff and a school on the grounds.
Three years later, in 1877, during a blizzard, this newly re-modeled building caught fire. The children were temporarily moved to other orphanages in the area. Just eleven months after the blaze, a new home was built on the existing foundation and dedicated in November 1877.
The German Protestant Orphan's Home continued to thrive. Every transaction, every communication was done in German. In 1917, after World War I, the Board decided that all religious instruction, education, communication and all publications should be done in English. Then in September 1918, all other transactions were changed to English."

In "Pictorial St. Louis ... 1875" is written:

"In the matter of public and private charities, St. Louis of the present day challenges the admiration of the civilized world. No other city in America. of the same amount of population, can boast of the same number of eleemosynary institutions, where the unfortunate of mankind receive food. medical attendance, and shelter, as our own. The buildings are all of a superior order of architecture, and admirably adapted for hospital purposes. The rapidity with which our city has been populated. the great influx of foreigners who come here, many suffering from disease and neglect, all unaccustomed to the changes of our climate. of food and water, produces great suffering, which, in many cases, results in death. Large numbers of children are thus left without their natural protectors, others are destitute the means of procuring food or medical attendance, while others have no place of shelter in which they can avail themselves of suitable attendance and nursing, even if possessed of the means to command such. These, and other causes, cast each year thousands of our unfortunate fellow creatures upon our hands, for whose support and maintenance the sympathies of the charitable public are solicited.

In the matter of hospitals, we have eleven as noble institutions as ever graced any modern city - institutions whose hospitable walls multitudes are rescued from misery, and perhaps death, by the kind attentions of those to whom they were litter strangers, and on whom they had no claim but a common humanity. These buildings are all large, well ventilated, remarkable for strict cleanliness, and to supplied with every facility for restoring the sick to perfect health. Some of these buildings are also highly ornamented, doing great credit to their founders and managers, and also to the city, by whom they are sustained. Some of them are self-sustaining, others are sustained entirely by charity. Both, however, deserve the greatest credit for the space they fill in our midst. We do not wish to make any invidious comparisons, but simple justice, which the public of St. Louis will not fail to appreciate, compels us to state that the greater number of these establishments have been established by the friends of the Roman Catholic Church, whose members have, in all ages, been noted munificent charities.


"The oldest, as well as the most important of our public charities, is the City Hospital. This institution dates back over thirty years, and was built, is owned, and sustained by the city. In every respect it is, and always has been, a noble charity, a home for the suffering of all nations, where the sick and destitute stranger, be his nationality or religious creed what they may, finds a shelter from the storms of life, and kind and gentle hands to soothe his sick pillow. It is curious to notice in the returns of this establishment, made each year by the officer in charge, the various countries from which the patients come who are admitted here. Not only is every State in the American Union represented, but every country of Europe, South America, and even occasionally some portions of Asia. This goes to show what a point of concentration St. Louis is. It is a noble charity, to which the city can point with pride, as evincing the philanthropy of our people. Few public hospitals in the United States can compare with this. It is admirably arranged, in a high. airy, eligible position, and its cleanliness is the marvel and wonder of all who visit it. No pains are spared to make it attractive and agreeable, and much credit is due to the admirable management of the officers in charge. who sustain an exalted reputation for care and attention. The grounds. large and spacious, are neatly laid out, and present the appearance of a summer garden. The city, through the mayor and council, takes great pride in this important and valuable establishment, and the board of health especially watch over its arrangements, while the regular physician and his assistants, paid by the city, endeavor to make it all that the city wants -- the very best of hospitals. The entire structure is built of the very best brick, and is finished in the most substantial manner, with ample supplies of water, bathing apparatus. and every convenience for the restoration of health and the promotion of comfort, that modern science and philanthropy have been enabled to devise. Attached is a drug store and other appurtenances, supplied by the city, and the whole is so arranged as to accommodate over six hundred patients."

"The resident physician is Dr. G. Hurt, a man no less renowned for his professional skill than for his philanthropic feelings for the afflicted of his race. Under his immediate supervision the City Hospital is everything it should be -- an honor to St. Louis, and a home, in every acceptation of the word, to the outcast and friendless stranger."

From This is our Saint Louis (written in 1970):

"The St. Louis City Hospital had its origin in an ordinance passed by the City Council on July 10, 1845, authorizing the appointment of a committee of five to choose a site and have plans drawn for a city hospital building. A tract of land, comprising about eight acres, was selected at the head of Soulard Street, where is now the intersection of Fourteenth (formerly Linn) Street and Lafayette Avenue. Contracts were let and the structure partly finished for the reception of patients in June, 1846. Only ninety patients could then be accommodated, but a number of additions were built during the next ten years. The entire hospital was completely destroyed by fire on May 15, 1856, with the loss of but one life, that of an insane Italian who had been rescued only to run back into the burning building.

Awaiting the erection of a new building the City authorities made arrangements for the patients at the new United States Marine Hospital and at the County Farm until by May 1857 a new hospital occupying the old site was completed at a cost of $62,000. Large additions were made in later years so that eventually about 450 patients were cared for there. That was the number of inmates when the severe tornado of May 27, 1896, swept diagonally through the southern section of the city and wholly wrecked the buildings of the hospital with, however, only three deaths among the patients.

It was quite fortunate that at the time the Convent of the Good Shepherd, between 17th and 18th and Chestnut and Pine Street was yet unoccupied. Accordingly, patients, doctors, nurses and other personnel were removed to that place and there part of the institution was right comfortably housed for about eleven years as Emergency Hospital No. 1, while another group was established in the old Pius Hospital on 14th and O'Fallon Street and called Emergency Hospital No. 2. Communicable diseases were housed in the latter structure.

The new City Hospital occupying again the site of the wrecked institution on Lafayette Ave. between 14th, Grattan and Carroll Streets, (actually four city blocks) was finished in 1907, and occupied in October of that year. Infectious diseases were also cared for there for three or four years, after which they were moved to the old Female Hospital across the street from the City Infirmary on Arsenal Street, on the highest ground within the city limits."


The City Dispensary is situated in the City Hall Building, corner of Eleventh and Chestnut Streets, and is one of our most important public charities. It is under the direction of Drs. Love and Robinson, one of whom is in constant attendance night and day. During the year 1874, 33.460 patients were examined and treated at this dispensary. Patients are not only sent to the different hospitals by the doctors in charge, hut the poor and indigent of the city prescribed for, and medicine furnished to them.


This hospital is in the southern portion of the city, below the Arsenal grounds, occupying an elevated and healthy position overlooking the river. It is a beautiful brick structure, built by the United States in 1854, and devoted to the care and attendance of sea-faring men. It fills an important want in St. Louis, and is one of the best conducted institutions iii the country. It is a national establishment, and is under the charge of Dr. G. T. Allen.

THE FEMALE HOSPITAL (aka, Social Evil Hospital)

In "Pictorial St. Louis ... 1875" is written:

"This institution was for many years known as the Social Evil Hospital, and was erected in 1873, under the mayoralty of Hon. Joseph Brown, from a fund gathered under the provisions of the, now repealed, Social Evil Law. It is a handsome brick structure, costing over $100,000, and situated outside the city limits, at the intersection of the Manchester and Arsenal Roads. It was first used exclusively for the care and treatment of social outcasts, who, under the social evil law, were taxed for its support. Since the repeal of this law, which proved obnoxious to many of our citizens, it has been used as a female hospital exclusively, for the treatment of all the indigent and poor female sick of the city, from whatever disease or accident they may suffer. Dr. P. V. Schenck is the resident physician.


"This magnificent establishment is situated on Arsenal Avenue, near the Manchester Road, and is one of the finest asylums in the United States. This is emphatically a public charity, and is supported by the public. This institution contains from 400 to 500 patients, from the county and city. It is conducted by the county court, who regulate all its different departments. It is fitted up with every facility for the cure or amelioration of the condition or the afflicted of God's creatures, who find an asylum within its walls. Dr. D. V. N. Howard is the physician in charge."

The following images were received from Debbie Gorry.

From This is our Saint Louis (written in 1970):

The beginning of this institution dates back to 1846 when that part of the Kemper College tract which was located east of the Blue Ridge Rd. (now Sublette Ave.) and which measured 42.12 acres was set aside for this future purpose. The institution was opened on April 23rd, 1869, and, being owned and operated by the County of St. Louis, it was known as the "St. Louis County Insane Asylum." It is reported that on the opening day 129 patients were admitted. After the City of St. Louis separated from the County of St. Louis on October 22nd, 1876, this hospital was re-named the "St. Louis Insane Asylum." This institution was tremendously enlarged in 1912 when the so-called "Million Dollar Annex" was completed. Many improvements were also made in the late twenties when a bond issue provided the necessary funds. The original center building was fire-proofed throughout, a large auditorium for the purpose of enabling various types of entertainment for the patients was provided along with a cafeteria for the employees and an up-to-date employees building. In keeping with the physical improvements of this institution a concerted effort was started in 1930 to im- prove the medical and nursing care of the patients. To this end the resident staff was considerably enlarged, graduate nurses were provided and whatever was needed in diagnostic and therapeutic equipment was supplied. While formerly the City Sanitarium was essentially a custodial institution, it has gradually become a first class hospital for the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. At the present time it houses approximately 3500 patients. In studying the history of the present City Sanitarium and the City Infirmary it is interesting to note that these institutions were originally county institutions. This status prevailed until October 22nd, 1876, when the City of St. Louis separated from the County of St. Louis under an agreement which is officially referred to as the "Scheme of Separation." This agreement contains a clause which gives the County of St. Louis the right to send patients to these former county institutions until such a time when the county will again have institutions of its own and with the understanding that the county will pay for the maintenance of its patients at the city institution at the prevailing per capita per diem cost. As a result of this provision St. Louis County is still making use in a limited way of the Infirmary, the Sanitarium, the Isolation, the Homer G. Phillips Hospital and the City Hospital.


This is more favorably known as the "Sister's Hospital," being under the direction of the Sisters of Charity. It is situated on Montgomery Street, near the corner of Bacon. This institution which, for over a quarter of a century, was on the corner of Fourth and Spruce Streets, was the first establishment of the kind west of the Mississippi. The ground was donated by the philanthropic Hon. Bryan Mullanphy, who, at an early date, perceived the want of such an establishment. The present buildings were, erected by the sisters in 1873-74, and are equal to any similar establishment in the United States. It is not, however, a public charity, in the general acceptation of the term. The public can use it, but it is self-sustaining. Very many go there and pay for attendance, preferring it either to a public or private hospital, and this is especially the case with strangers or parties who have no home, and desire good nursing and attendance, and are able to pay for it. Here they can obtain their room, their own physician, if they so desire, or, if they have no preference, the services of those medical men who attend the institution, which are the best the city affords. It is conducted entirely by the Sisters of Charity.

Mullanphy Emigrant Home

This is among the most munificent charities ever established in America. It is the gift of the late Bryan Mullanphy, who donated a large sum of money for the purpose of establishing a home and protection for emigrants of all nationalities and all religious denominations. The fund has always been in the hands of a board of managers, appointed by the city council to conduct the affairs of this donation. This fund has been so carefully and economically managed that it has increased to enormous proportions. The Home is a magnificent brick structure, on the west side of Fourteenth Street, between Mullanphy and Howard Streets. Here emigrants arriving in the city and out of funds, are supplied with a home until they can obtain work, or they are forwarded to the other States, whither they are journeying. The office of the board is at 307 Locust Street.

After 1825 many other philanthropies developed. In 1826 the city of St. Louis petitioned the legislature for funds to build a poorhouse, primarily for destitute immigrants. In 1818 the Erin Benevolent Society was formed, and in 1827 an Irish group established the Missouri Hibernian Relief Society to relieve distress in their homeland. Efforts to establish a hospital failed until 1828 when some Sisters of Charity arrived and began a hospital on Spruce Street near Third, in a log house with two rooms and a kitchen. With the strong support of Mayor Lane, St. Louis raised funds for an adequate new hospital, completed in 1832, also on Spruce Street. In 1834, under the vigilant leadership of Ann Perry, The St. Louis Association of Ladies for the Relief of Orphan Children (later incorporated as the St. Louis Protestant Orphans' Asylum) was established. Although most important -- as well as many lesser-known -- St. Louisans supported charity, few Creoles assumed leadership roles, nor did they provide the chief financial support. Almost without exception, the Anglo-Americans and Irish in St. Louis conceived, directed, and largely financed charitable projects. The most notable gifts were made by the Mullanphys: the eccentric father, John, and his two no-less-eccentric children, Bryan and Ann Mullanphy Biddle. With funds inherited from her husband and with her share of her father's estate, Ann would make charitable donations that expressed a deep concern for the poor and unfortunate. They may also have helped fill the emptiness of her life without children or many close friends. During her lifetime she gave land to the Visitation Convent; she was generous with the Girl's Orphan Asylum; and she founded the Biddle Foundling Asylum and Lying-In Hospital. In her will she left funds for many charities, including the construction of a Widows' Home.


Situated in the southern portion of the city, is also among the noted public charities. It is of the same character as the City Hospital, supported by, and under the direction of, the city, through the board of health. This hospital contains a separate "lying-in ward," and a department for the exclusive treatment of small-pox patients. The grounds attached to the establishment are under good cultivation, and much improved. Dr. R. S. Anderson is the resident physician.

In addition to the hospitals already mentioned, are the


Pictorial St. Louis - the great metropolis of the Mississippi Valley: a topographical survey drawn in perspective, A. D. 1875. - Dry, Camille N. St. Louis: McGraw-Young Publishing, 1997

This is our Saint Louis - published by Knight Publishing Company, 1970. Harry M. Hagen.

Saint Louis - An Informal History of the City and its People, 1764-1865. van Ravenswaay, Charles. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press, 1991. ISBN 0-252-1915-6, 568 pages

For information (and photos) of St. Louis City Hospital click here.

For information (and photos) of St. Mary's Infirmary (built in 1889) at 1536-48 Papin Street click here.
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